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Black Hymeneal Update

Posted in Black Hymeneal, Denisse Montoya, Dimas Akelarre, Irish Pubs, Krampus, Uncategorized, Zachary Strupp with tags , , , , , , , on March 9, 2018 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Well, after a temporary hiatus, it seems that, with the help of my friends, things are getting back on track with the imminent completion and publication of my book, Black Hymeneal. My buddy Zach has helped me with the page numbering and sorting out the  Table of Contents (for which I still owe him breakfast!). That being done, it was time for my friend Denisse and I to work on the cover images. She picked me up after 7 pm a couple of Sundays ago and we drove to the Goodyear Farms Historic Cemetery to see if we might take a picture there, but it was closed. If I am not mistaken their sign said something to the effect that they close at twilight. No specific hour, just twilight. Hmmm. Another note of interest: whilst looking up information about the cemetery online I found a photo of one of the graves which actually bears the name of the ill-fated hero, Anacleto, from my story The Fell Fête! I may have to return sometime during daytime hours and pay my respects.


Moving on, I then suggested we try an Irish pub, for their folksy atmosphere. Obligingly, she drove us back to my neck of the woods to Rosie McCaffrey’s where we had a Black Velvet (Guinness stout and hard cider) and she took an excellent photo of me, which I intend use as my “author photo” for the back of my book. That being done, we still needed to settle on an image for the front cover. Monday morning, during my daily ablutions, I had an epiphany: Denisse once took a photograph, that I have long wanted to use for just such a project, that ties in aesthetically with the content of my book. I asked her permission to use the image, and she graciously gave her consent, but I won’t post it yet, as I don’t want to jinx our endeavors by showing our hand too soon.

In other news, my buddy Dick Kelly has been sending me scans of some of the new artwork he’s come up with for our proposed Krampus chapbook. It looks pretty awesome and I cannot wait to see how it will all go together.

In between all of this, I have decided to stick my toes into the online journal submission pool. Over the last year or two I have sporadically submitted poems and prose pieces to various online journals and contests but to no avail. After a few months demurral I have decided to get back into the fray. I also have selected to submit to sites which are a little more in keeping with the weird poetry vibe I espouse to improve my chances of success.

For starters, I have sent my poem Dimas Akelarre to Literary Hatchet. I made some changes to it however, adding to it the subtitle The Warlock of Navarra to give a hint as to what it is about. I also removed the reference to Nyarlathotep, because it felt like a name-drop, and replaced it with the Great Black He-Goat, which is more appropriate thematically anyway. I also have my eye on the submission date for the 6th issue of The Audient Void. More on all of this as things develop.


Ursula K. Le Guin: The Grand Dame of American Fantasy & Science Fiction

Posted in A Wizard of Earthsea, Bildungsroman, Earthsea Cycle, Fantasy, Uncategorized, Ursula K. Le Guin with tags , , , , on January 26, 2018 by Manuel Paul Arenas

A few days ago I heard the sad news about the passing of author Ursula K. Le Guin, the outspoken grand dame of American Fantasy & Science Fiction whose career spanned over 50 years. I won’t pretend to be that knowledgeable about her vast body of influential work, but what I did read, I liked a lot.

Author Ursula K. LeGuin, 1973.

I believe I first heard of Le Guin through my colleague, Derek Fetler. Back in the days when Derek and I haunted the Cambridge open mike circuit as the Gloom Twins, there was a song we used to play that Derek had penned called Sparrowhawk, based on Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea (1968). I was not familiar with Le Guin’s work prior to that, but I was a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis from my childhood, so I was intrigued when Derek turned me on to the original Earthsea trilogy. I recall burning through A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1970), and The Farthest Shore (1972), which told the coming-of-age tale of Ged, a wizard from the isle of Gont, and getting totally absorbed in Le Guin’s very distinctive fantasy world.

The Bantam paperback editions of the original Earthsea Trilogy. I always loved the artwork on these by Pauline Ellison.

While still under her spell, I picked up a chapbook called From Elfland to Poughkeepsie (1973) which is an essay by Le Guin on writing fantasy that had some valuable insight on dialog writing that I have tried to follow to this day when writing my own dark fantasy tales.

Chapbook of Le Guin’s essay From Elfland to Poughkeepsie (1973, Pendragon Press).

Over the years I tried to find more Le Guin books to read, but since a good portion of her output is pure Science Fiction, a genre I don’t have much interest in, I stopped seeking out her books. I did however read the novella The Beginning Place (1980), as well as the story The Rule of Names (1964), the latter of which I really got a kick out of, but I haven’t read much else since.

The Wind’s Twelve Quarters (1979, Bantam) featuring another lovely cover by Pauline Ellison, where I first read The Rule of Names.

When Le Guin published a 4th novel in the Earthsea Cycle, Tehanu (1990), I was initially excited, but I was so deep into my exploration into H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos by then that I didn’t get around to picking it up until relatively recently and still haven’t read it yet. Apparently, there is also a 5th novel called The Other Wind (2001), as well as a short story collection called Tales from Earthsea (2001) which I have yet to read as well, but might take a look at now that I have begun re-reading the original trilogy.

Paperback copy of Tehanu (1991, Spectra) which I used to see everywhere when it first came out.

At the tail-end of 2004 I saw a SiFi Channel mini-series adaptation of the original trilogy called Legend of Earthsea (2004) which was a watered down affair with none of the wonder and wisdom from Le Guin’s novels. I understand Le Guin herself was dissatisfied with it and accused the producers of “whitewashing”, by casting a fair-skinned actor in the lead when Le Guin explicitly describes the inhabitants of Gont as being of reddish-brown cast.

1st edition of A Wizard of Earthsea (1968, Parnassus Press) featuring cover art by Ruth Robbins depicting Ged’s coppery countenance.

Apparently there is an anime as well, which is a very loose adaptation of the original trilogy that also had Le Guin in a tizzy:

“Ursula K Le Guin, the author of the Earthsea series, gave a mixed response to the film in her review on her website. Le Guin commended the visual animation in the film but stated that the plot departed so greatly from her story that she was “watching an entirely different story, confusingly enacted by people with the same names as in my story”. She also praised certain depictions of nature in the film, but felt that the production values of the film were not as high as previous works directed by Hayao Miyazaki, and that the film’s excitement was focused too much around scenes of violence. Her initial response to Gorō Miyazaki was “[I]t is not my book. It is your movie. It is a good movie”. However, she stated that the comment disclosed on the movie’s public blog did not portray her true feelings about the film’s vast departure from original stories; “taking bits and pieces out of context, and replacing the storylines with an entirely different plot…”” [, retrieved 01/25/2018]

Perhaps someday someone will come along and do it right. Till then, do yourself a favor and pick up Le Guin’s exquisite books.

PS: As I re-read A Wizard of Earthsea I am reminded constantly of Derek’s song, Sparrowhawk, the melody of which goes round on a loop in my head. I wish we had recorded it together. Perhaps someday we will.


Goodbye 2017

Posted in 2017, Black Hymeneal, Krampus, Nativity in Black, Uncategorized, Year End Review with tags , , , , , on December 18, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Well,  December is almost over and 2017 has already got one foot out of the door. Unfortunately, it will just be yet another in a sequence of shitty years for me. For starters nothing has changed since my last year end update. Black Hymeneal is still in limbo, waiting to be published. I have revamped the original manuscript, made some changes in the selection of poems, and rewritten the introductions then sent the manuscript to my friend Denisse Montoya who is supposed to help me with the cover art and layout, but I do not have an ETA on that at present.

My buddy Dick Kelly got sidetracked and wasn’t able to complete the Krampus illustrations for our proposed chapbook, but we recently talked and he said he was getting back on it. Again, I am hopeful, but there is no ETA at present.

I have been writing more these days and actually was able to write a prose piece I had conceived of last year then shelved. It is called Nativity in Black and I debuted it at the Space 55 7 Minutes Under the Mistletoe on 12/15/17. I have recently requested a video of my performance which I may post on here once I receive it, if I can figure out how to do that. Perhaps Denisse can help me with that as well. I also have been working fairly regularly on two stories from my Helldorado series, however, what has kept me from completing them in a timely manner is that my tablet shit the bed back in April and I cannot afford to replace it so I have had to do my work at the library where my access is limited and there are multiple distractions and no privacy.

I am still at the caption job and still have yet to make a single friend. I hate some of the calls I have to dictate, most actually, but it pays the bill for now. I still long for the day when I can make my living off of my art.

Speaking of living, I may have to live somewhere else by the end of 2018. My landlords are raising the rent so I have renewed my lease for the last time then my roomie and I are parting ways. So now my future living situation is uncertain.

Without getting into the boring details, my personal life hasn’t changed either. I had hoped sometime in my 50th year things would look up for me in that department, but no such luck so far. Perhaps it’s just as well. If I should decide to leave Arizona at the end of 2018 I will only have to worry about myself and no one else.

If I had to live in AZ for the rest of my life, I had hoped to make a name for myself writing Southwestern Gothic Horror, with a Latin bent, but I would gladly give that up if I can leave the Southwest all together.  I am so unhappy here. I would love to return to my beloved New England, but I don’t think I can afford that. I also don’t relish being so far away from my family if anything happens. Perhaps the Northwest would work. I will have to weigh my options very soon.



J.S. Le Fanu’s “Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter”

Posted in Brinsley Le Fanu, Ghost Stories, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Schalcken the Painter (1979), Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 6, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

I have been on a bit of a Le Fanu kick these days. J. Sheridan Le Fanu was a master of the Victorian Ghost story. I believe I have mentioned him here before. His most celebrated work is “Carmilla”, which was the inspiration for much of the moodiness and homoeroticism in modern vampire literature and is the indirect impetus behind Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. (A fact which I intend to explain further in another post sometime in the near future).
Even so, Le Fanu has many more great ghost tales to offer and was also an inspiration to M.R. James, the recognized master of the classic ghost tale. One of Le Fanu’s most famous works is “Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter” (1839), which I had been aware of for decades but had never actually read.

Illustration for “Strange Event in the Life of Schalcken the Painter” by Brinsley Le Fanu from “The Watcher and Other Weird Stories” [1894, Downey & Co., London]

I have no excuse however, as I had it in my Dover edition of “Best Stories of J.S. Le Fanu”, and could have read it any time over the last 25 years or so. I finally decided to read it the other day however and was not disappointed. It is the tale of a painter (Schalcken) who while under the apprenticeship of the “immortal Gerard Douw”, secretly falls in love with his niece, Rose. Although Douw suspects this, he decides his ward would have a better life being married to a rich man and reluctantly gives/sells her to a mysterious and insistent older suitor, Mynher Vanderhausen, for an extravagant sum of money. After the marriage contract is signed, Vanderhausen spirits her off and she isn’t seen or heard from for months. The painter and his master try in vain to find the suitor, whom no one seems to have heard of in his alleged home town, and they despair of ever learning the fate of their beloved Rose until one night she arrives unexpectedly at her guardian’s house in a tizzy making wild claims about her husband, repeatedly exclaiming “The dead and the living cannot be one–God has forbidden it!”. What transpires next is a classic example of subtlety and terror. As an aperitif, there is a hint of Rose’s fate in a dream that Schalcken has wherein he receives a visit from his long lost love. Very chilling stuff. It wasn’t as gruesome as some of his tales can be, but it was definitely creepy, and the fact that the nature of the antagonist or the threat he imposes is never really explained makes it as enigmatic as it is disturbing. This would probably not sit well with some modern readers, who might need more explicit or neatly tied up explanations, but I found the ambiguity very intriguing.

Apparently there is a 1979 BBC adaptation of this story, with an abbreviated title, which is available on DVD. I shall have to try to find a copy of it online and see what they did with it. I have seen some images from it online though and the uncanny look of Mynher Vanderhausen is reproduced exactly as he was described in the story, which is promising.

DVD for BBC adaptation of Le Fanu’s “Schalken the Painter”.

I have also just found a nice copy of the Folio Society’s 1988 hardbound edition of  Le Fanu’s classic Gothic novel “Uncle Silas” illustrated by Charles Stewart, which I intend to review here when I get around to reading it. Look here for more on that in the coming months.

My Lost Book Review: The Dark Eidolon

Posted in Clark Ashton Smith, S.T. Joshi, Uncategorized with tags , , on July 5, 2016 by Manuel Paul Arenas
A while back, the bookstore I work for asked the staff to write book reviews for the new website they were creating. They had to be brief, and on titles which were likely to be carried at one of our numerous locations. I chose “The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies” by Clark Ashton Smith. Unfortunately, the way the log in is set up on the computers at work, the credit for the review went to the last person to submit one, so my piece is attributed to another employee. To rectify this, I am reposting it here for you all to peruse.
Tagline: Excellent introduction to this macabre bard of the weird

“Clark Ashton Smith was an artist, sculptor, author and poet, known mostly today through his association with Horror icon H.P. Lovecraft. Although Smith did dabble in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos during his tenure with Weird Tales magazine, he was a master storyteller and wordsmith in his own right, specializing in exquisitely written fantasy tales and poems which smack of 19th century Orientalism and Gothic Horror. Featuring a generous selection of his sublime short stories, prose poems and metered verse, this collection by Penguin Classics, replete with an enlightening introduction and copious explanatory notes by Weird Tales scholar S.T. Joshi, is a great introduction to this macabre bard from the Golden Age of Pulp.”

“H.P.L. R.I.P.” (A Tribute to H.P. Lovecraft)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 29, 2016 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Beyond the Wall of Sleep, in atramentous bardo

Shuddersome scenes replay, endlessly, in eldritch tableau

May Eve at Meadow Hill, revelers chant their baleful song

“Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat with a Thousand Young!”

Innsmouth maids lie with frogs, to breed an amphibian race

Hominine at first till time shows their Demi-Deep-One face

Richard Upton Pickman, with exceptional ghoulish flair

Paints his nightmare visions ensconced within his North End lair

At the bale libraries of Miskatonic U.

The Necronomicon is stored and kept away from view

On an uncharted isle, in non-Euclidean crumble

Constrained Cthulhu waits to return as mankind trembles

Whilst misanthropic Old Ones plot in aphotic space, their scheming

In his grave at Swan Point, dead H.P. Lovecraft waits dreaming

H.P. Lovecraft, depicted as an 18th century poet, by Virgil Finlay.

H.P. Lovecraft, depicted as an 18th century poet, by Virgil Finlay.

Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror (1971)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 26, 2016 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Originally released in Spain in 1968 under the more appropriate title of “La Marca del Hombre Lobo”, this was Paul Naschy’s first starring role as Waldemar Daninsky: El Hombre Lobo. As a young lad Jacinto Molina (Naschy’s real name) had seen the film “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man”, which really struck a chord with him. Years later, he wrote a script intending to give it to Lon Chaney Jr, but Mr Chaney was already too long in the tooth for the role, so it was suggested that Molina play the part of the wolf man. Changing his name to sound more exotic and in step (or steppe?) with the region where most of the traditional Horror tales take place, he chose to take on the stage name of Paul Naschy; Paul, after the concurrent pope, and Naschy after a well-known Hungarian athlete of the day.

Spanish poster for "La Marca del Hombre Lobo" (1968).

Spanish poster for “La Marca del Hombre Lobo” (1968).

It was released in the US under the title “Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror” in 1971 because the distributor had promised a Frankenstein movie to pad a double billing for contractual reasons, so they created an animated sequence at the beginning of the film to explain why there is no Frankenstein monster in the film, despite the title and poster art:

USA poster for "Frankenstein's Bloody Terror" (1971)

USA poster for “Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror” (1971)

“Now the most frightening Frankenstein story of all, as the ancient werewolf curse brands the family of monster makers as Wolfstein…Wolfstein, the inhuman clan of blood-hungry wolf monsters!”

There is no other mention of the Frankenstein family or their monster for the remainder of the film. This is the version that I saw, so it will be the one I review.

Count Sigmund von Aarenberg throws a masquerade party for his debutante daughter, the lovely young Countess Janice von Aarenberg to celebrate her return from school and her entrance into society. At the party, she reunites with an old childhood chum, Rudolph Weissmann, the son of her father’s colleague, Judge Aarno Weissmann. Both the judge and the count are pleased to see the youngsters dancing and getting reacquainted, until a stranger comes in who sweeps Janice off her feet. It is the infamous Count Waldemar Daninsky, who has a reputation for having some sinister interests, particularly the abandoned castle of Imre Wolfstein.

Upon a drive home from a failed outing with Waldemar, Janice and Rudolph at the Wolfstein castle, the youngsters almost run a gypsy couple’s wagon off the road. Daninsky, however, stops to help them get back on the road and directs them to the castle as a place to take shelter for the night.

The gypsies follow his advice but upon arrival start to snoop around through the cupboards until they find a stash of wine bottles, which they drink to excess. Emboldened by the wine, they decide to open the sarcophagi in the family crypt to look for spoils but instead find the previous tenant to be intact, save for a silver knife shaped like a cross shoved into his heart. Startled at first, their greed overpowers their trepidation and they yank the precious blade out of Imre Wolfstein’s supernaturally preserved corpse, which revives him; after which, he quickly changes into a werewolf, and kills them both. The bodies of the gypsies are later discovered by Waldemar, who pockets the silver blade which he finds in the hands of the dead gypsy woman.

The gypsies attempt to plunder the sarcophagus of Imre Wolfstein.

The gypsies attempt to plunder the sarcophagus of Imre Wolfstein.

The werewolf then roams freely, terrorizing the countryside, so a hunting party is formed to find the creature and put an end to his bloody spree. Waldemar hears Rudolph cry out and runs to find him in a fight for his life with Wolfstein. Waldemar saves him by returning the silver blade to its rightful place, but gets bitten by Wolfstein in the process. Rudolph is then torn between feeling indebted to the Count, yet still resentful that his sweetheart seems to favor the Count over him. Even so, he pledges to help the Count find a cure.

A shackled Waldemar begins to shapeshift.

A shackled Waldemar begins to shapeshift.

Daninsky decides to set up shop in the castle where he can look through Wolfstein’s library for clues on how to cure himself of his werewolf curse and be locked in the dungeon on nights of the full moon. Eventually, it is Janice who stumbles across a letter to Wolfstein from a Doctor Janos Mikhelov who had offered to help with his curse, so Rudolph contacts him to see if he would help Waldemar. He responds in the affirmative, stating that he will arrive in a couple of days on a late-night train. Mikhelov’s arrival with his wife Wandessa, a voluptuous Maria Callas look-alike (all hair, nose and lips, with a pronounced decolletage), surprises everyone because he is so young looking and the letter was at least 30 years old. The tall, gaunt young doctor explains that he is the son of the original Dr. Mikhelov, but that he has continued his father’s studies and can still help. Unfortunately, Waldemar and company soon find out that the Doctor and his wife have misrepresented themselves, and that they have agendas of their own.

A page from the pressbook for "Frankenstein's Bloody Terror".

A page from the pressbook for “Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror”.

I enjoyed this movie a lot. It has lots of good Gothic atmosphere and a decent plot. The actors played their respective parts well, and I particularly enjoyed Dr. Mikhelov and his wife. The lead ingenue was delectable, but unlike the ladies in the latter films, she kept her clothes on–at least in this edit of the film. The gore wasn’t as explicit either, with only a few splashes of blood here and there. In essence, this is probably closer to the Universal film that inspired Naschy than his later efforts, which were more exploitative.

It would take a couple of years for the Count Waldemar Daninsky franchise to find success with 1971’s “La Noche de Walpurgis” (a/k/a “The Werewolf vs The Vampire Woman”), but once he got the ball rolling there was no stopping him! Naschy also played other classic monsters over the years including Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, etc, but none so well as his own creations. He is also known for his character Alaric de Marnac whom he modeled after Gilles de Rais, the infamous medieval French nobleman known for his satanic interests and murderous pastimes.